Arch Canyon is located in the Northeast
section of Cedar Mesa. It drains into upper Comb Wash and offers a
variety of hiking and exploring opportunities. As might be assumed
given its name, several arches can be viewed in the Arch Canyon system.
Lower Arch Canyon offers easy trails, Anasazi ruins and scenic hiking. Arch Canyon
is accessed by driving north on the Upper Comb Wash road where it
intersects with UT Highway 95 at about mile 107.5. The Comb Wash Road,
county road #205, is very easy to find, as it is at the bottom of the
long road up the side of Comb Ridge. The Comb Wash road south of the
highway is county road # 235 and it runs parallel with Comb Ridge
until it intersects with US 163 near Bluff, Utah. The Comb Wash road
north of the highway is a good quality dirt road that runs basically
There are a number of good
campsites along the Comb Wash road south of the highway where you will
find outhouses but no water. Only a few campsites are on public land to
the North of the UT 95. This is because much of the land that lies
North of the highway is Ute Indian reservation land and trespassing is
forbidden. It is important for all visitors to respect the property
rights of the Utes and make sure to stick to the roads that are public
travel through their lands.
About 2 miles north of the highway you
will pass by a gated fence near some corrals. Keep driving through. The
gate is usually open but is sometimes closed. If the gate is
closed when you drive through make sure to close it behind you. (A
general rule of thumb in the West is to always leave gates in the same
state you find them.) A short distance from this point you will pass by
a well signed picnic area which is privilege and off limits. Just past
here turn to the West and soon you will spot the BLM sign &
ruins are easily reached when hiking in Lower Arch Canyon.
From the parking area there
are two options
for moving forward. Most hikers will chose to park here and continue on
foot. However, Arch Canyon is a very popular 4wd road and many choose
to drive up the canyon. The road runs for about 7 1/2 miles and is a
one way road. It is definitely a 4wd road and only high clearance
vehicles with experienced drivers should drive this route. This can be
a popular road for many 4wd enthusiasts so be aware that you may find
traffic in Arch Canyon.
Hiking in Lower Arch Canyon is
easy. Follow the road/trail heading up canyon from the trailhead. After
only about a quarter of a mile you will encounter the Arch Canyon Ruin.
Since so many people visit this site you will find the ruins
are fenced off but there are areas to explore and there is some very
interesting rock art, both petroglyph and pictographs. Be sure to make note of the cliff walls
where there are holes carved into the rock that once served to hold the
beams in place for a second and a third story to the building.
This was a very large structure at one time.
In fact, at one time this was a very large ruin. There is
evidence that there were a number of room blocks ranging from one to
four stories tall along the cliff face. The standing walls show Mesa
Verde construction techniques with loaf shaped building blocks held in
place by mud plaster and Chacoan style construction with tablet shaped
stones laid carefully in place. This site likely was
concentric circle petroglyph are well preserved. Despite their easy
during both the Pueblo 2 and Pueblo 3 periods. An interesting
feature here is that most of the structures were torn down by the
Anasazi themselves and most of the debris was moved to the front of the
site. I have never heard a theory advanced as to why they might have
Hiking continues to be fairly easy as you continue
up canyon. it is about 7 miles to the junction of Arch Canyon and Texas
Canyon. Here the road ends and you are treated to views of Angel Arch
and Cathedral Arch, 2 of the arches that give the canyon its name.
Look for both of these arches in the main Canyon just up canyon looking
to the right (East). There is a large grove of Ponderosa Pines at the
road end which makes a great picnic spot. This is the end of the road
for all motorized vehicles.
Hikers can continue in either direction. Heading up Arch Canyon
you will reach the junction with Butts Canyon. Butts, Texas and Upper
Arch Canyons all offer exploration opportunities for the adventurous.
It is possible to make a loop hike by exiting from one of these canyons
and entering into another but be aware that this will be difficult
route finding and hiking.
hikers will find that hiking from the trailhead to the Texas Canyon
junction and back will make a full day. If you just have a short time
and want to visit a ruin the Arch Canyon Ruin is easily accessed and is
an interesting site. For more information about Arch Canyon refer to
any of our three featured Cedar Mesa Hiking Guides